Employee sends spouse to voice harassment complaint: Is that 'protected' activity?


Employees who complain to HR or management about alleged discrimination or harassment are engaging in protected activity and can’t be punished for complaining. But what if the employee can’t summon the courage to complain and, instead, sends someone else? Is sending a spokesperson to complain also protected activity? A federal court says “yes,” at least when it’s the employee’s spouse who takes action.

Court: Reporting personal theft is 'protected activity'

A new California appellate court ruling shows that employees who are terminated for reporting the alleged theft of personal property at work have a right to sue for wrongful termination as a whistle-blower. The report merely has to involve criminal activity. It doesn’t have to be work related or concern a matter of public interest.

LGBT leader resigns, cites retaliation in firings

The University of Minnesota at Duluth is still reeling from discrimination charges after it failed to renew hockey coach Shannon Miller’s contract. Miller and three of her coaches, all of whom are openly gay, were terminated.

Internal complaint doesn't equal whistle-blowing


The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that simply complaining to one’s boss  about allegedly illegal activity is not whistle-blowing protected by the Texas Whistleblower Act. Employees must inform law enforcement.

Alerting boss of job-bias rules is not 'protected activity'

The role of an HR professional includes educating management on anti-discrimination laws. Doing so is generally considered doing one’s job and isn’t protected activity.

Dunkin' Donuts manager: Not so sweet

A Westchester County, N.Y., Dunkin’ Donuts franchise finds itself in hot oil after a store manager allegedly slapped a female employee who refused his sexual advances.

FLSA doesn't protect every crabby gripe about pay

Employers can’t retaliate against workers who complain about alleged Fair Labor Standards Act violations. However, not every complaint about pay is protected.

EEOC sues San Ysidro eatery for same-sex harassment

Achiote Restaurant in San Ysidro, Ca., faces an EEOC lawsuit after young Mexican men working at the restaurant complained of sexual harassment and retaliation by a male manager.

Government employee's speech that sounds like insubordination may be protected

Public employees are entitled to free speech under the Constitution—within limits. For example, the speech must involve matters of public importance. Under the right circumstances, arguing with a supervisor may even be protected.

Former employee reapplies? Beware retaliation lawsuit

Consider this before dismissing a request for reinstatement or new job application from a former employee: She may be trying to set up a lawsuit alleging that turning her down amounted to retaliation. Don’t fall into that trap.

Substandard work before FMLA leave? Beware retaliation suit for later poor reviews


Don’t think that just because an employee was a poor performer before she requested FMLA leave, a poor review after the request can’t be retaliation. If there is other evidence of retaliation (like a direct statement that FMLA leave was a factor), then the previous poor performance won’t be much of a defense.

Oilfield services firm settles retaliation suit for $30,000

Garrison Contractors, a West Texas oil-industry construction company, has agreed to settle charges it retaliated against a female employee after she reported sexual harassment.

Slightly lower evaluation rating isn't retaliation

To constitute retaliation for engaging in protected activity, an employer has to do something that would dissuade a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place. A poor evaluation, by itself, isn’t enough.

Not so fast! Texas whistle-blowers must pursue internal remedies before they can sue


Texas law requires public employees who are fired by their employing agency to pursue internal appeals of that decision. Otherwise, they can’t sue in state court over alleged wrongful discharge for whistle-blowing. Government employers should make sure they raise that defense if they don’t have any record of the worker making an internal appeal.

Prepare for more whistle-blower retaliation complaints

Heed OSHA's memo stressing that it only needs “reasonable cause” to find merit in one.
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